Nutmeg, Myristica Fragrans: the holiday spice!

The holiday season wouldn’t be the same without nutmeg!

The nutmeg tree is a large evergreen native to the Spice Islands and is now cultivated in the Caribbean. It produces two spices – mace and nutmeg. Nutmeg is the seed kernel inside the fruit and mace is a lacy covering on the kernel. One whole nutmeg grated equals 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground nutmeg.

Nutmeg is usually associated with sweet, spicy dishes – pies, puddings, custards, cookies and spice cakes. It combines well with many cheeses, and is included in soufflés and cheese sauces. In soups and stews it works with meat, tomatoes, split pea, chicken or black beans. It compliments egg dishes and vegetables like cabbage, spinach, broccoli, beans, potatoes, onions and eggplant. It is indispensable to numerous mulled wines and punches, and it is a must have in my favorite holiday drink – eggnog with rum, topped with nutmeg!

When I see eggnog return to the grocery store shelves it’s a definite sign that the holidays are upon us. One of my favorite holiday drinks is Eggnog on ice with a shot of rum in it, and a delicate sprinkling of nutmeg on top. Eggnog is also available in a “light” version and it is absolutely delicious. I actually prefer it!

Eggnog originated in England where it was usually only consumed by the aristocracy because the ingredients were expensive and typically only available to the wealthy. However in 18th century America, eggnog became a widely popular drink because Americans had plentiful farm and dairy products. Americans also substituted rum for brandy that the English used.


Illustration of the nutmeg plant and fruit from Franz Eugen Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, first published in 1887.

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One Response to Nutmeg, Myristica Fragrans: the holiday spice!

  1. Jenni says:

    I love eggnog, but once we made our own, I’ve never purchased store-bought again. Homemade is Sooooo much better, but either way, nutmeg is necessary! I also put it on roasted asparagus (Alton Brown suggested it)–really, really yummy!

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